Dr. William Major
Elements of Argumentation/Persuasion

I. Purpose: You must have a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish.

    A. To inquire: a pursuit of the truth;
    B. To convince others to accept your opinion to a degree;
        1. convince them that your position deserves to be taken seriously;
        2. convince them to agree with you;
        3. convince them to undertake an action if they agree with you.

II. Finding a Subject:

    A. Consider issues that inspire different opinions; it should have an element of controversy. It makes no sense to consider issues that people generally agree upon (e.g., that it is nice to sit by a fire on a cold winter evening);
    B. You might begin by generating questions that have more than one reasonable answer;
    C. When you write an argument, you are looking for an answer to a question or showing that you have found the answer you want your audience to accept;
    D. A good subject may occur to you if you note how you respond to the views of other people.
    E. Focus, Focus, Focus: Your topic must be limited, and it should be something that you feel strongly about.

III. Developing Your Subject

    A. You must have at least one reason for the claim you make, but one reason is rarely enough   to convince your readers. If the audience does not find this reason persuasive, then you have no other support.
        1. A complex argument always has more than one reason;
        2. Think critically about your reasons: Do you need all of them? Are some more important than others?

    B. Evidence can come from several places.
        1. facts and statistics (research);
        2. personal experience;
        3. observation.

    C. You should probably use some combination of at least two types of evidence.

D. Refutation: It is extremely important that you consider the views of those who may disagree with you. By showing not only the reasons for your position but also the weakness of the objections that can be made against it, you bolster your case.

        1. Introduce reason or reasons why someone might believe differently, and;
        2. Refute those reasons, or;
        3. Concede certain points (showing that you agree with your opponent on certain points.

IV. Appeals to Readers: Your paper should is most persuasive when you have used a combination of the following classical appeals.

    A. Ethos (ethical appeal): demonstrates that you have good will toward your audience and good knowledge of your subject;
    B. Logos (logical appeal): effective use of critical thinking and judicious use of information;
    C. Pathos (emotional appeal): using language that will stir the feelings of your audience.

V. Recognize Logical Fallacies

    A. Ad hominem attacks: when you attack your opponent and not his or her position;
    B. Appeal to Tradition: something should be done a certain way because it has always been done this way;
    C. Bandwagon: everyone is doing it this way, so you should to;
    D. False Authority: assumption that expert in one field is also expert in another;
    E. Oversimplification: statement or argument that leaves out relevant considerations about an issue or implies that there is one cause or solution to a problem

Material taken from Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook, chapters 35 and 36.